This exhibit is inspired by one of the first Bengali science fiction stories of the same name, and showcases the work of more than 20 artists across the region, including Ronni Ahmmed, Neha Choksi and Saskia Pintelon. They interpreted the theme of looking toward the sky.
The exhibition is arranged in three broad movements, represented on the walls of the exhibition by deepening shades of blue. The first movement “Staring up at the sky” is about enchantment, and takes the Tagore painting as a formal point of departure. The second movement “Alienation,” is about the complex feelings that can be evoked be contemplating our place in the universe. The third movement “Light Blindness” is about dystopia and the possibility of redemption.
It follows, in some loose sense, the plot of a generic science fiction novel or film – first a happy, innocent world; which is then interrupted by the hostile appearance of a foreign or extra-terrestrial being; and finally, at the climax, an apocalyptic threat emerges with the potential for salvation through faith and human will.
The name of the exhibition comes from Nirrudesher Kahani or “The Story of The Missing One,” written in 1896 by Jagadish Chandra Bose. It is considered to be one of the first tales in the sci-fi genre written in Bengali. Bose, a pioneering inventor of instruments for wireless technology and the study of nature, was close to the Tagore family, who were the central figures in what is known as the Bengal Renaissance.
It would have been against this backdrop that Gaganendranath Tagore painted Resurrection, which is the other inspiration for this exhibit. It is an ethereal painting, with a circular vortex of clouds with a religious icon at the centre, as if the viewer is staring up at the heavens. “I was really struck by this work because it made me ask why? Why is he painting this religious theme in this extremely futuristic way? Modernity, religion, rationality and faith are often perceived as a dichotomy these days, especially here, especially now,” said curator Nada Raza.